From this article published by Ars Technica on February 14:
CBS reported that its profits were up 20 percent for the last quarter of 2013, to $470 million. On Tuesday, [CBS CEO Les] Moonves told investors and analysts that even if Aereo won the case, “we’re not going to be financially handicapped at all,” according to reports in Deadline.com and The New York Post.
From this article published by CNBC on March 11:
“If Aereo should work, if they should win, which we don’t think will happen, we can go OTT with CBS,” Moonves said on Tuesday at an investor conference.
OTT is short for “over the top,” which is industry parlance for offering television over the Internet outside of a pay TV subscription.
“If the government wants to give them permission to steal our signal, then we will come up with some other way to get them our content and still get paid for it.”
At first glance, it seems like Moonves is talking out of both sides of his mouth. After all, if Aereo doesn’t handicap CBS financially, what exactly is Aereo “stealing”?
Words matter, though, and Moonves is choosing his words carefully here. It could be true that Aereo doesn’t harm CBS’ bottom line — which, incidentally, was up 20% in the last quarter. It could also be true, however, that CBS wants “some other way” to deliver content to people that involves CBS getting paid for it like a cable network — i.e., retransmission fees, which cable and satellite companies are required by law to pay broadcast networks in order to carry local channels. Aereo doesn’t have to pay retransmission fees; it picks up free over-the-air TV signals on antennas, then rents out those antennas to customers who receive the video from them. The Supreme Court will hear arguments about the legality of antenna rentals on April 22.
Aereo might not be hurting CBS’ profits in the least, but Moonves clearly wants Aereo to pay those retransmission fees. In other words, he’s being a greedy corporate scumbag. To be fair, though, that’s pretty much his job, and at least his messaging isn’t inconsistent. Besides, that shiny new billion-dollar-a-year NFL contract won’t pay for itself, will it? (Neither will that even newer $250 million deal for Thursday Night Football.)
There’s one word, though, that Moonves should choose more carefully — “steal”. Copyright infringement and theft are not the same legally or intrinsically, no matter how many times media titans like him try to convince us otherwise.